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Antonio Mendez Education. (2012) 'Argo How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue In History.' New.

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Cia 10, Hollywood 9, Us 8, Holt 6, Washington 6, Tony Mendez 5, Bob Anders 5, Joseph Holt 5, U.s. 3, Maine 3, Teheran 3, Davis 2, Exfiltration 2, Antonio Mendez 2, Marshall 2, Stanton 2, John Goodman 2, Lincoln 2, India 2, New York 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Antonio Mendez  Education.  (2012) 'Argo How the CIA and  
   Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue In History.'...  

    October 6, 2012
    5:00 - 6:00pm EDT  

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feeling and you get the sense when you are there later her actions in warfare and also a net just enemy judges or theologians showed she really wasn't afraid of anything including her own family. ..
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[inaudible] it couldn't happen today to the same degree. so i think she became much more more than the court planned her to be. but at the same time joan was very much joan. when they told her to shut up and go along with the truth, her self-confidence comes through. again, where he got it from, i
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don't know. she showed that throughout. i when i talked to one of the actresses that portrayed her -- when i played the part i think was confidence of youth. as someone my age i would be scared to get on a ski trail of something like and go down the first time. she suggest they'd go to mass before fight. it's a lot different picture than lot of the films and even the saint hood which made her in to a don't mess with joan kind of figure. i found out a lot. people were not necessarily happy with my interpretation. i wanted situate her firmly as a girl growing up in the 15th cinch i are and having the extraordinary thing happen to her. and in the process to really
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change the course of 100-years war and changed of idea of france. i think the large e theme is the view of women in history. repeat the idea that history is progressive. it started out with women no rights and suddenly we are have all the rights. we know that's not true. one of the things it tells me, the history is a zig zag. it times in history, there was a place for very strong women during the case of teenage girl to operate and have a strong effect on historical events. i think it's a good corrective to what we tend to assume about especially the middle ages. >> watch booktv all weekend to see more from a recent visit to maine. for more information on other cities visited go to
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c-span.org/local content. antonio mendez presents "argo" in washington, d.c.,ed. it details the story of six americans who escaped from the u.s. embassy during the iran hostage crisis in 1979. the cia operation to find and get them out of the country involved cia officer antonio mendez posing as a hollywood producer scouting out location for a fake science fiction movie titled "argo." it's about thirty minutes. if we can have nerve the back come on. thank you for your patience. we have -- the reports we were getting was that the traffic around the block here was horrendous. apparently thank you, people are nodding. that's good. thank you very much. so there may be some people held
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up still. we'll welcome them. welcome to the international spy museum. i'm peter, the executive directer. ly ask you as a court sei those who are recording the program and the speakers to be kind enough to turn off your cell phone, pda and so forth. that would be a big help. thank you. that said we'll go ahead and come up and do the interview with tony.
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the people die. we want the six of them out. what we want is -- deliver the six by providing them with --
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you can send them training wheels and get them to the board we are gatorade. it would take a miracle to get them out. what are we watching? i have an idea. there are canadian film crew for science fiction. we file together as a company. this is how we make a big movie. you want to come to hollywood with a hot shot without doing anything. >> yeah. you'll fit right in. >> i need script. >> mars, desert, a location to shot. you need a crew. if i'm doing a fake movie. it's going to be a fake hit. this is the best bad idea we have, sir. by far. ♪ this is what i do. and i have never let them down.
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♪ ♪ it's over. probably not a lot. ♪ dream on. ♪ ♪ dream on ♪ ♪ dream on ♪ ♪ ♪ you really believe your story is going to make a difference with a gun to the head. >> i think my story is the only thing when you have a gun to your head. ♪ [applause] seeing that, i wish that i had that line when i was in the agency. yes, sir, it's a bad idea, but it's the best one we've got.
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so i think all of? you can em these with everyone pa these with that. empathize with that. okay. thank you. the matter of exfiltration is an extraordinary operation. it often involves a number of people coming from headquarter, it involves great tension, it longses danger and risk. they are not always all successful. but in many, many, many cases, we were successful in bringing out our sources who needed to be exfiltrated or it was the end of their lives or their careers. tony mendez was the subject of the film "argo." was one of the people in the
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agency involved in many, many of those exfiltrations. his original specialty had been awe authentication documentation and the area of disguise. his wife, later was also chief of the disguise unit in cia. we're hearing tonight from someone -- upon whom someone has choose ton base the film. it was for real life. it is what they did for their country, for the agency and for sewerses that we felt it was so important to protect. my understanding is that this film is with the usual liberties rather close to what happened. and i think nothing makes it more proximate for us than to watch the protest outside the american embassies today. and so we see this is a movie not just about the past, but
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about our own times. tony was was in the agency for 25 years. he worked in many areas of the world often areas which were hose tal as did jonah. in the areas he was often responsible for the kinds of operations that you see depicted in the film and in the book which we're here to do the signing here tonight. he earned the cia's intelligence of medal of merit. the intelligence star, and two certificates of distinction. i should add that when the agency celebrated the 50th anniversary, they also recognized 50 their outstanding officer and they were called the trailblazers. tony was one of those officers. tony's divides his time as much as he can when he's not the hollywood thing. i expected him to come in with a
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scarf and the sun glasses. but he stayed tony pretty much. but he is a very accomplished landscape painedder, he of course, lectures and is a author on intelligence matters, he was a consult assistant to the cbs series "agency qtion" done two books. "the master of disguise." and "spy dust." which was done with his wife. so we're very happy, tony to have you here tonight, so you and jonah to do the book signing. we wish you well on the success of the book, we hope you have a piece of the movie. we wish you success on that too. okay. so our format this evening will be tony and onthat conventions about the experience both that tony has and also in the making of the movie which i think is
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equally extraordinary. we will not have a q & a session. but tony will be going back to sign books and i know he'll be available to to talk about the book. help me welcome one of the stars of the undercover world the cia. tony mendez and joan that. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] >> my cell phone just in case -- [inaudible] >> can everybody hear us? is this good? while they're micking tony. let me ask a question. how many people do not know the story that "argo" is based on? okay. i will tell you a quick story. shall we start? >> here, lead, my dear. >> this is to be a conversation. i'm going lead the conversation tonight. the story that the movie is about "argo" is about my husband's amazing rescue of six diplomats from iran in 1980 following the iranian hostage
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crisis. basically the american embassy and teheran was overrun, just like you have been seeing on the news the last woke or so. it was overrun successfully though. and those extremist in the embassy took 60 some americans hostage and held them for 444 days. they brought down the presidency of president carter. it was nothing he could do. there was no one he could talk to. there was no one he could negotiate with, no one wanted to come to the table, they wanted to burn the table down. we were without any resources to deal with that hostage crisis. the only successful thing that happened is 444 days hostage crisis.
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they issue on the streets of teheran and landed at the canadian ambassador residence and the deputy residence. the movie picks up about 40 days after it happened, tony went in after they had been in the canadian ambassador residence for about three months and tony convinced them that he was going to rescue them by having them pose on a hollywood location scouting party, a group of nuts from hollywood, on oblivious to what was going on politically in the world. scouting for a movie in teheran in the bazaar. he was asking the people to risk their lives by pretending to be script writers things they knew
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nothing about. he did convince them to to it. he walked them through he walked them through security and immigration and passport control with documentings he forged and was stories he made up for them to tell. it was an amazing performance not just by tony by those -- we call them house gusts to differentiate from the hostages. they got out. the hostages stayed for 444 days. up on the top floor in the museum in a glass case, you'll see a pair of blue jeans that have been laundered and pressed. they worn by one of the hostages, they were worn for 444 days. i think it would be make the best commercial for whatever brand the jeans are. [laughter] so i'm going to ask tony some
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questions and we'll see what his thinking is. was it the most difficult and the most dangerous exfiltration you ever did? >> no. [laughter] but it was exciting. it was fun, it was dangerous over all it was a really good show. [laughter] it's not the thing you want to do every week though. it could wear on you. anyway, my instructions to answer the question an stop talking. [laughter] that's from headquarters. >> when tony worked at the cia, he was chosen as one of the top
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50. one of the reasons he was chosen is because in the enormous building with we can't tell you how big, full of all of these people, we can't actually tell you how many. tony stood out because he was an artist. and as an artist hired as a forger count fitter as an artist, tony takes a different attack when he's looking at the problem. he doesn't come up with the -- how shall i -- the every day slowings to a problem. tony comes up with a creative solution to the problem and he's always did. and that was one of the reasons he was so valued at cia, it's one of the reasons he left he was never replaced in kind. but i will tell you if you are at cia and had an operational problem, and needed someone in the room to help you figure out what to do. you would want tony the room.
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you would gate different answer an answer that was compelling. imagine you're a cia high senior level officer and this guy is coming in telling you that the way to move the people is to make them in to a hollywood location scouting party. it's on the face of it ridiculous. i think that's what you saw in the film clip. it was there were no good ideas but this was the best bad idea they had. actually, this was the brilliant idea. so tony, how did you come up with this idea? >> well, it was an act of december par ration. when you're doing an exfull traition or any other operation where you have people in harms way, so you to make sure you get a lot of buy in with whatever solution you come up with.
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because it could go bad and you want to make sure everybody is on board. the -- what was the question again? >> talk about john chambers. >> yeah. >> and his input. >> we had a consultn't by the name of jerome? hollywood. we worked with him a lot, he helped us figure out how to get from point a to b. and be invisible. we put those lessons to good use and in this case, i wanted to make sure that we had committee under control. the committee effect is you have all done this. your boss asks you to do something and you come back and say it's going to cost this much
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or this amount of people could get killed. you try to get a contract the masters. that's what we had to to do with the exfiltration at that kind. anyway, what we came up with was a bad idea, but it really had some i spark. we fell in love with. the committee effect is what happens if you have high level people and you're putting them in harm's way in the corridor of the headquarter. anyway, we had to spend a lot of time talking the what if questions and hand wringing and that sort of thing. once we got to it, we were able to get buy in if we could convince people it might work and take it from there. mind you, there's a lot of
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operations that should go that can be canceled are in reason. and vice versa. it's a fun process. >> you know, tony wrote a book called "master of disgoiz." he was a he was a master of a custom other things. he was the master of getting something done. there was a point when i needed very badly to go to india and live there for two years and work. there was no way i could get that done so i went see tony. took him about two months to get in an assignment in india which was fabulous. two years, amazing work. tony, his skill in negotiates and in juggling all of these committees, he called it the committee effect is really not committees, it was governments. he'll dealing with the canadian government we're asking them for the pass passport. can you imagine them coming us and asking us for blank bass
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pass -- passport. no. he's dealing with every level of the white house and jimmy carter who approved -- tony had one foot out of the door in germany and a cable came in that said stop. the president is reviewing the findings. twenty in in the -- twenty minutes later, god speed. good luck. from the president of the united states. this is unprecedented. he said, if this didn't go well, the american flag was going to be draped all over it. so he's working with the canadian and the white house, he's working with the cia, bureaucracy and the state department. it's difficult get everybody on the same page with the idea they're calling the best bad they could come up with. he did all of that. but beyond that, he went and walked them through the airport on his own, which wasn't necessarily in the plan, and our
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headquarter often tells us don't do that. don't go in the airport with them. if it goes wrong, they're going to look to you. without thinking about it, they're going to turn and look to you if they're in trouble and they're going comprise you. don't go through the airport with them. he went through the airport with them. so let me say, is there anything, i mean, this is thirty years later, if you could change something about what you did, about how you did it, would there be anything you would change? >> never. don't mess with success. [laughter] you have no idea if it works. you can only go by your gut if your gut is this. it looks good to me. you go with it. you go against your gut. you are deep in trouble.
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the deputy directer of cia asked me how it was when it was over, i said nothing succeeds like success. [laughter] he said, i know the feeling. which i guess he did. we just got back from new york. we were in toronto where the film had the premier and got wonderful standing 0 vases. people whistling, laughing during the movie. allen and john goodman kind of steal this movie. if one or the other doesn't get best supporting actor. i'm just stupid. particularly allen. he plays the cranky old men in movies. he sat across from him at dinner. guess what? he is a cranky old man. [laughter] he and john goodman were just
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fabulous. but we if -- there was a photo shoot, mind you we're two retired spy. this is nuts. there was a photoshot for entertainment weekly. they are going to do four pages on this movie, ben is talking to the reporter who is writing the story. and the reporter was saying, what's it like to play tony mendez. here's what ben said, well, kind of low-key, casa turn, ben affleck said. when i first met tony mendez i went up and said, tony, man, how does it feel? you're going to be your story is going to be around the world in every language. they're going know you and this fabulous -- tony, what do you think? how does feel? and he said to the entertainment weekly reporter, he said felt good. [laughter]
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ben was the zing for underplaying the part. he says, you know, exhibit a. what am i supposed to do? [laughter] i'm playing tony mendez. >> it was good. >> it was good. [laughter] >> again, we were in new york, two nights ago we were in the panel with one of the people that he rescued. bob anders, the senior fellow in the group. gray hair, he looked like a diplomat. he was a wonderful man. and we have never heard him talk since it happened. since somebody said, bob, tell us a little bit about going to the airport, what you're the directer, what did you do? what did tony do. what did they tell you to do. do you remember what he said? no. [laughter] >> bob anders said -- it was
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fun. and mind you, his life is on the line here. truly. he said it was kind of fun. this hollywood thing was kind of fun. and tony knew they would choose the hollywood cover, they didn't want to be nutritionist, they didn't want to be oil technicians, and they didn't want to be schoolteachers in a country where the schools and the american schools have been shut down for six months. but hollywood, who doesn't want to pretended and who's not able to pretended to be hollywood? bob anders said, we had been confined for three months, and my hair was really long. this is 1979. they got a blow-dryer and blew it back, and he said you should are -- i looked great. [laughter] i got -- [inaudible] it was two sizes too small and i buttoned it to here. this is bob anders. he's 80 something now. i have all this hair on my chest. it looked good.
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[laughter] a gold medallionon. a lot of cologne. a trench coat over my shoulders. tony said my walk was a little infemme anymore but bob anders wanted a house gust -- guests said it was fun. it was fun escapes from tehran. that's part of the again yous of this story. tony picked it, because he knew they could get in to it on some level. they could prend to pretended the hollywood types and he thought he could save their lives and they could save their lives by doing this. it was an amazing story. you probably not going read another story like this about u.s. government work. the cia likes this story, they prefer it to be matt damon assassin story that have been
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arrange, the cia, they show the movie in their theater inside. but tony has always said that the job is to tell the truth about the cia, to amend history. >> but not necessarily all the truth. in other words, what you put in it has to be always true, but doesn't have to be all of it. >> exactly right. so you have to know that in this story, there are still gaps of things that can't be said. in the book, "argo," everything in that book is the truth. and we can't wait for our cia colleagues to read it, call us, and say is that me on page 280? [laughter] i think that's me. is that me? are you going tell them? no. [laughter] >> what else?
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>> i think we're out of time. >> he thinks we're out of time. >> yeah. >> we probably are. thank you so much for coming here for the signing and thank your actions depicted in the movie. we're proud of you. thank you. [applause] [applause] [applause] every weekend -- capital of maine is home to boden college, colby college, baits college and the university of maine. booktv exemployed the literary culture on the rent recent visit. the book is "lincoln's forgotten ally: judge advocate general joseph holt of kentucky" judge advocate joseph hot and the author and lincoln prize
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winner is elizabeth leonard. elizabeth? tell us our audience who this man is. >> judge holt is a kentucky native who came to washington in 1857 after a career as a lawyer and an or or it. orator and became a member of the james buchanan cabinet until the end of the administration. the last post in that administration was to serve as the secretary of war. so he was the secretary of war during the succession winter. he then in 1862 after lincoln had become president and a year in the war became he was the head of military justice and oversaw the court marshall and the military commission. the war department had to conduct. >> why a book on the gentleman? >> the title should give you a clue. i think he's a important figure and he has been understudy.
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he has not entirely forgotten. that might be a slightly misleading aspect of the title. he is remembered for one aspect. he was the prosecutors of the i sass sin of lincoln. john willings booth action team. he served in the federal government for a long time. he was very important during the civil war. his role as judge was extremely significant to lincoln. his support for lincoln's policy is very important. and the story has been lost. so i thought it was time somebody brought that story to light. >> what did you learn about him? an interest going in. through the process what did you learn about him that most interested you? >> well, i knew from very early on in my acquaint yens with judge holt as a history -- in
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connection with with the first book where i was studying women's involvement in the civil war, and he appeared as someone who issued a legal brief from the administration that made sure that one of the women i was studying was not allowed to continue working for the federal government as a doctor. and i was very angry at him. and i knew he was very a complicated and powerful figure. the more i studied him, the more i found that he was even more complicated than i had realized. a very interesting, wise, thoughtful, prickly, difficult, challenging figure who was both powerfully loved and powerfully hated. and even i came to forgive him for his -- the reasons i was initially so angry at him. but i'm very aware of the complexity of the character. i think that's the thing i found
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interesting and that was most striking to me as i did my research. just the deep complexity of ther. person. and the profound ways in which his choice z affected his life. >> can you expand upon that? >> most significantly i say in terms of the choices he was a kentucky he grew up in a slave-holding family. the entire family went with the confederate sei with the exception of one aunt. the lovely aunt maryann who was a local unionist. by making the choice to serve the union officially as james buchanan's secretary of war, and not support the succession and then by making the choice to work as lincoln's judge advocate general and before that to serve very faithfully as lincoln's agent to troy to keep kentucky from suck succeeding.
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he made choices that damaged his relationship with everybody he loved and knew the first half of his life. it was interesting to me. >> i read a couple of reviews after you won the lincoln prize, and they state -- won how great the book is. you expose the strength and weaknesses. >> right. >> what were his strengths and weaknesses? >> well, among the strengths i would include his enormous intelligence. he was very -- he very bright. the family recognize the intention early on in his life and positioned him as the member of the family or his generation that would go fort and bring glory upon the family. he was very committed. once he made a decision, he stuck with that decision, he was very loyal. and he was very determined. so those are the kinds of
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strengths he had or those among the strengths. the weaknesses are sometimes related to the strengths. certainly the things people remember most about him if they remember him at all is the prosecution at the lincoln assassins. and he was determined to punish them. he was sure that the people that were before the bar in washington were guilty. and he was determined to punish them and in order to do that, he pursued some very bad leads and made decisions about witnesses that were not very smart. but that reflected his determination to avenges lincoln's death. as much as he was strong and determined and committed he sometimes could go too far. i would say one of the greatest weaknesses he had a hard time forgives. even those people who were -- close to him at one point when he felt they made the wrong
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addition, for example with the family member that wept with the con confederate say. it was hard for them to forgive them and move forward. a very sensitive person. >> for people who have seen the conspirator, the depiction in that. >> right. >> would you compare that depiction be what you learned. >> well, i think the acting is great. i think the actor did a wonderful job portraying a character. it is not the joseph holt that i know from my research. i am delighted that joseph's holt name has become known and he hit the silver screen. but the character in the " conspirator" is much law-abiding and much more manipulative and
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vicious than the joseph holt i know and underhanded. i think one of the things that the film tries to suggest is the federal government largely in the person of edwin stanton and the person of joseph holt basically railroaded poor mary to her death, and without any interest in what the truth was. they determined that she how would hang regardless and they went after her poor mary. and this just isn't the way the assassination trial played out. there was no deal between stanton and holt to make sure that she was convicted an son. it makes him out to a truly vengeful, two-dimensional character and doesn't reflect who he is as i know him. >> during the administration must have been a difficult job. could you sort of expand upon what that job was maybe before the war and the job that he ended up in?
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>> well, the job the before the war was basically there was one person who had a small office who kept track of whatever sorts of military sense occurred in an army that was 16,000 people strong. right up prior to the war. that's how big the u.s. army was. during the civil war the army expanded to. 3-million people. 2 and a half people or so in the north. and this meant that the amount of case work that he had to oversee was extraordinary and he also was given responsibility for pursuing civilians who were engaged in disloyal acts. treason behavior and so on. he didn't pursue every case. he didn't serve on every case himself. obviously a lot of court marshall went on the field. it was his responsibility to make sure that justice was -- as much as he could that justice was prevailing in the cases and
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punishment was being weeded out as it should be and people's rights were being protected. it was a massive assignment that went way past the end of the war. he stayed in the position until 1875 pfs it a expanded position. he had the role in that that position of making law. so much law about war didn't even exist because this was a war the likes of which the the united states had never see. so many, many policy around how the war should be conducted and it needed to be created. he was influential this. and he also was responsible for a great extend for making sure that the president's policies were support and people followed the policy. which was the emancipation. he had a enormous job and worked constantly.
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>> some of the passages in the book really eliminate his relationship with lincoln. >> right. you talk about that relationship often they met, what the relationship was like. >> yeah. my sense of their relationship is that it must have been extremely corp. cordial, extremely mutually respectful. many people asked me over the years, did he meet lincoln at all and what kind of contact they had. they met. often and for many hours at the time. any capital case had to be discussed with the president and the president had to sign off on it. and there were a lot of those cases that came across holt's desk. any of those -- sometimes he would go up to the white house when lincoln had time. and they could sit for six or seven hours together discusses dozens of cases and makes decisions. as i note in the book, lincoln hand-picked him. there were people who would are recommended him. lincoln choose him and appointed him to be the judge advocate
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general. i think lincoln knew of him beforehand. i know, he if. and he respected him and knew he was the right man for the job. the only thing i'll add to that is that i think if you could argue that they are dynamic with sort of a good cop bad cop dynamic and invariably holt would have been playing the tough cop and lincoln was much more inclined to pardon, he could, and holt was tougher. but lincoln often agreed. and they agreed something like 80% of the time. but if there was a choice, it was most likely lincoln who was going to say let's parton the fellow. >> he supported the president. >> and he loved him. >> that was my question about his thoughts as lincoln as a person. >> i think he brought thought that lincoln was a little soft, you know, on some things. related to military law, i think
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that he probably liked stanton wished that lincoln was a little more self-protective. he was famous for riding out without any protection and hot one of the thing he did at the very end of his assignment as buchanan's secretary of war was make sure that lincoln got in to washington and was inaugurated safely. and he carried the pride of having overseen that throughout the war. and having spent many hours and days and weeks trying to find where the traitors were in the north who might -- the northerners knew the south was at od with them. were the south allies in the nor. how could they be uncovered and the plos be stopped. holgt was involved with that as. he was devoted to lincoln, and i think when lincoln was assassinated, i can't even imagine how devastated that would have been for him,
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especially looking back foryears and knowing that he himself had been so instrumental in making sure lincoln was start at the start of the presidency. >> do you think that person personal relationship and the feelings toward lincoln potentially could have clouded at all the prosecution of mary, the spear or it? >> ting factors in to why he obsess the. certainly. but i think there are signs of his determination to punish the leadership of the confederate say throughout the war. so before the assassination, you find him talking about the way traitors should be handled. he never blamed the common people in the south. he never blamed the people who were mislead by these terrible leaders who were seeking their own power and so fort. -- forth. he was quite angry at all of the
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leadership. people like jefferson daifts -- davis and he know known when he was in buchanan's administration and davis was a senator. his own brother-in-law, the senator from florida, who had got left, you know, congress in the early part of 1860. he already was enraged. but i think his "devotion" to lynn ton and the affection for him would contributed to him making some bad judgment calls as he moved through the trial. although many people said that he conducted an extremely fair trial during the time the trial was under way. i think there was a lot of shock that mary actually was executed although prior to her execution there were clam moring for the execution in the press. when what had happened, i think it was shocking to at love people. at that point that condemnation
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of holt's conduct of the trial really begins to be heard. >> after 9/11, there was a huge debate in this country with the patriot act and how about impacting civil liberties. >> right. >> i have to got to think in reading some of the book that was a huge, huge area even during that time. >> absolutely. and in fact, george w. bush, president bush made that connection explicitly. connected himself made the parallel with lincoln and the need to suppress the liberties in order to protect the nation. >> where did judge holt fall on that. >> he would have said there are places are civil liberties need to be suppressed. in doing so, it tends to be easier for people to look at holt and say what a wicked man he was and forget they were lincoln's own policies. he was pursuing lincoln's policy.
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lincoln named him judge advocate general on november 3rd and extend the has been use corp. us. that same month. it was only two to three weeks after lincoln appointed holt he suspended the writ of has been use corpus and issued emancipation proclamation. he wouldn't have put holt in that position if he didn't expect him to follow through on the policy and support him. holt was doing lincoln's work. >> wasn't it issued during that time as it is now. >> absolutely. there was a big issue. >> the issue of suppression of civil liby. yes there were many comaint lincoln had a famous dispiewt with the chief justice of the supreme court about the suppression of civil liberties. but lincoln's response was should i protect one law in
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order watch the entire collapse? if you protect the civil liberty of people to rebel to that extend they destroy the nation. what have you done? really? better 0 to save the nation. >> you mentioned he was from coilt and his family owned slaves. >> yes, very tiny town on the ohio river. how did he make that transition and the family not make that transition and how do they impact him personally. >> that is a really good question. and in fact, as i think about where i'd like to go in my future research, that's one of the things that i really would love to understand better. he came from a family that had a certain set of values, he loved his family, he was very close to his family, but he was lifted
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out of his family and sent to get an education of a sort that no one else in his family got. he had a brother that became a doctor. he didn't have anybody else that went as far as he did in terms of his education. and then going out in to the world in a way that he did, he was lifted up to become the very important figure and he traveled around the world, he took two extended trips to europe and the middle east. and these were very influential for him. he saw the importance or he und the importance of the american republican system in a they he might not had he not traveled and so on. but there are many questions particularly, i think, about his transition to becoming such an adamant emancipationist that i
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think are still mysterious. i think we can explain some of the support for the union based on having his travel mored and having gone outside the union and having the education that other members didn't have and having had the experience he had. where that antislavely kernel started. that can be traced back to his teens, actually, i cite a speech that he gave in -- when he was about 17, where he he spoke harshly about slavery, and i don't quite understand where it came from. later in his life, when he was still a young man and living in kentucky and mississippi. there the lettering from his uncles while he himself still was committed to slavely. letters from his uncles that nevertheless suggested they
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suspected that he would someday become an abolition nist. they expected that he would move to a northern state and they hoped that he wouldn't. and they begged him not betray his roots. he did. and how he made that transition is a mystery. unfortunately so much of the material terrible we have on holt was abundant -- the vast majority is material that correspondents sent to hot. we have to try to discern what he was thinking based on things people say to him and guess what he wrote in response what we need is his letter if there was a dairy where he wrote down the thoughts. we don't have those things. we don't have an auto biography. that would be a very interesting question to be able to answer. there are so many books been written about lincoln and the civil war. how do you go about writing a
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book like this. what's your process? well, for me, the beginning is just once i have a sense of something that is interesting to me, burying myself in the archive the. i spent years in smaller chunks of time at the national archives and the library of congress, and then going kentucky and so on pursuing the primary sources. and i also in the case of this book had the amazing fortunate of meeting dissen dent of one the brothers. they became significant contributor, to my understanding of him based on the lore that had come down through their family about him and the material they had that was related to him. they actually had some of the letters he had written to a niece and a nephew and so on. it's really the for me it's the primary sources just emerging
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myself in those and then beginning to try to sort through it and create some kind of narrative. but historians are always in the business of putting puss les, together within and making sense out of chaos. i hope i have done him justice. but it's a complicated process. and i know i have been asked whether i would be interesting in doing a biography of ben butler because he is a graduate and a very important civil war general. and a very complicated figure as well. and i have thought about it. but i'm not sure how many biography a person can do. it takes a lot of getting to know somebody. i've lived with joseph holt in my head for a long time. >> for some writers going to a place where something happened and connecting back is important. did you go to the -- are there
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other places you went. >>absolutely. i came to holt i was introduced early on the research on women. later i wrote a book about focus primarily on assassination and the aftermath. i went to all kinds of places around washington and so on. and stayed at hotel that was next to mary's house and i went a lot of places that were relevant to the assassination. than as i was studying his life for fully, i went to kentucky and went to see his old family mansion, and went to the places went to the places he had gone to school. some of them -- there are remnants of the places there. i went places where he lived but there was nothing left. he had a beautiful mansion in louisville that is gone and one in washington that is gone too. i have been to the places and stevens port where his grave is and visit this broken down old mansion that is still there and
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visited his graff. -- grave its an interesting thing about holt. as much as he loved kentucky and his family and loved his family's values behind when he died he want god back. he did go back. there was some reconciliation after the war with one small branch of the family which happens to be the branch who -- the con temporary people i know and somehow did bring back him back to kentucky. he is right next to where his parents lived and where he was raised. >> in the book you write about him -- one of the review of the book says one of the new thicks you find out is about the perspective on the emancipation in kentucky. >> right. >> what is there that is new on that topic? >> well, i guess actually the border states in general have been pretty much neglected nap is kind of new ground. we keep going over the same old
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ground in civil war history a lot. >> but is always new ground, if you look around. and the border states have been neglected and the complexity of the border states is something that is being examed a lot. there are many people, i think, who traditionally would have assumed that because kentucky stayed in the union, it must have been a proemancipation at a state. but kentucky didn't stay in the union for the sake of emancipation. kentucky stayed in the union for the sake of the union and when lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation it created a lot of conflict in kentucky between those who wanted to keep the union as it was. and those who like, holt, believed union must be preserved and nothing not even slavery should be allowed to destroy it. slavery had to be abandon. there was a tremendous amount of conflict in kentucky. he was at the front end of
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people who wanted to preserve the union and dump slavery. he was in favor of the emancipating the slaves. it wasn't a concession to the union. there were many -- kentucky is post war confederate state. kentucky did not ratify the 1th amendment to the constitution until 1985. 75. 1975. it didn't have to because the law of the land after two-thirds of the state ratify it becomes the law but kentucky held out in the 20th century. the late 20th century. mans pating the -- or supporting that. that's impressive. they it stay in the union. and it was lincoln's home state too. of course. >> that's right. with all of that, as a backdrop, why is he lincoln's forgotten ally? i